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Topic: upper middle schoolers that haven't yet mastered multiplication facts

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Subject:   RE: upper middle schoolers that haven't yet mastered multiplication facts
Author: Mathman
Date: Jan 26 2005
On Jan 26 2005, gerirose wrote:
> I've been very hesitant to weigh in on this discussion because I
> have such strong feelings but no research to back me up.

Don't be.  I believe that your own eperience should count as "research".  I
certainly count my many years, and personal endeavour as having some value.

> Students who come to middle school who have yet mastered
> their 'facts' have been drilled for many years.  And the practice
> has not worked.  That's clear because they still don't know their
> 'facts.'  Why would we presume that more drill and practice will
> change the outcome?

For those few students that I've encountered
> in this situation, I've tried to help them build on what they do
> know already.  I've not met a student who can't count by two's or
> five's or ten's by middle school.  I've used this knowledge and
> repeated addition to help them figure out what they need to recall
> in standardized test situations.  The more I've removed the anxiety
> of the 'wrong' answer inside our classroom, and the more they've
> worked with alternative ways (more conceptual) to look at
> multiplication, the more confident my students have become and the
> more success they've had.

I've encountered many, and for the large part drill works.  It does so because
there are certain aspects of any study that are simply fundamental facts.  What
they missed was the incentive to learn even by drill.  Compare to any other
study, including martial arts, or any of the sports.  Drill is necessary even if
a person is accomplished.  Any successful athlete or concert pianist will say
the same.  Of course there are other aspects to any study.  However, certain
elements are simply there to be accepted and learned, usually by traditional

I have been imminently successful teaching trigonometry.  One sucess story
includes a student thanking me a year later with "We are teaching the other kids
their trig, and you did that."  But the point here is that one year I was not
having the same success.  Students simply couldn't be bothered memorising the
six basic trig functions.  Without that basis, there was simply no course of
study, and I'd be speaking to myself for the rest of the semester.  So, I told
them to learn them by Friday, or they'd have to write them out 50 times.  Two
failed to do so, so I stuck by my prominse, but they thought it was a joke.  We
wound up in the principal's office.  When he heard what was happening [keeping
it short] he told them to have the work done by tomorrow and to appear in his
office to recite the functions or take a holiday.  They did.  When he asked how
long it took them, they replied "Twenty minutes max."  I had waited two

The message here is that learning is also the responsibility of the student.
They must pay attention, no matter the message or means offered by the teacher.
There is much truth to the old addage, "The onus is on the student."  Our
education is ultimately very personal.  The times table does not take a lot of
thought, it takes a lot of effort, and they'll be surprised at how little time
it takes when they make that effort.  Parents can help by parenting:  No movie,
no TV, no anything until this very necessary task is finished.  Yes, parents are
also responsible.


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